Parvovirus typically affects young puppies but can also affect unvaccinated or under-vaccinated adult dogs. Certain breeds like Doberman Pincers, Rottweilers, and Pit Bulls are at an increased risk. Most dogs contract Parvovirus through exposure to an infected dog’s feces. The virus is shed in the feces 4-5 days after exposure, and clinical symptoms do not typically occur until 6-10 days later. Seemingly healthy dogs and puppies can shed the virus in their feces. The virus is also extremely hardy and can survive for a very long time in the environment. The virus can be carried on animals, people, and objects. It is not readily killed by heat, alcohol, or any other disinfectants. A 1:30 bleach solution is ideal for killing the virus in the environment. Commercial products are available specifically for this virus as well.
The Parvovirus has been greatly reduced due to proper vaccination with the Distemper 5 in 1 vaccine (which includes Parvo). However with the movement of dogs from around the country recently there has been a significant increase over the years. In order to be fully protective, the Distemper vaccine must be given every 3-4 weeks from the time a puppy is 6-8 weeks old to the time they are at least 12 weeks of age. Adult dogs who are vaccinated for the first time with the Distemper vaccine need to have a booster in 3-4 weeks. The vaccine should then be maintained every year thereafter or a vaccine titer should be performed to ensure immunity.
Clinical signs of Parvovirus usually include severe vomiting and diarrhea. Although early in the disease it can be very subtle. The diarrhea often contains blood and mucous and has a very strong, distinctive putrid smell. Lack of appetite, lethargy, and fever can also be present. These symptoms occur after the virus has entered the body and traveled to the intestines where it causes severe inflammation and death of the intestinal cells. The death and sloughing of the intestines can often lead to systemic infection (sepsis) from bacterial movement out of the intestines.
There is NO CURE for Parvovirus. Treatment consists of supportive care which can become quite expensive. At MVH we carry specialized serum that contains large amounts of Parvo Antibodies. This has proven to greatly reduce mortality rates. This is in addition to supportive care such as IV fluids and electrolytes to combat dehydration, antibiotic therapy to combat infection, medication to stop diarrhea and vomiting, anti-inflammatories to decrease intestinal inflammation and occasionally blood transfusions to combat severe blood loss. Your pet has the best chance for recovery if a diagnosis is made early on and aggressive treatment is used. Even in these best-case scenarios, not all puppies can be saved. In my clinical experience Parvovirus carries a 50:50 survival rate.
Since there is no cure for Parvovirus and it can be an extremely expensive and difficult disease to treat successfully, prevention is vitally important. The key to prevention is proper vaccination by your veterinarian. Limit your puppy’s exposure to dogs with unknown vaccine histories until their 16-week vaccine. Puppies who have not received their full puppy vaccine series should not be allowed to go to dog parks, pet stores and other public places frequented by dogs with unknown vaccine histories. Limit socialization to dogs and puppies that you known are properly vaccinated and have not been ill recently. Due to the ease of transmission and the virus’ ability to survive for 3+ months in the environment, limiting your puppy’s exposure can be the difference between life and death. Even after your puppy has survived a battle with Parvovirus it’s important to clean your home and property thoroughly to prevent future infections.
If your puppy is having diarrhea or vomiting and you suspect Parvovirus or you just want to get your dog up to date with his/her vaccines contact Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital at 201-646-2008 or visit us at http://www.meadowlandsvethospital.com